They died for your freedom: Woodhall Spa’s 617 Squadron war memorial

Pic: Wikimedia Commons

The 617 Squadron war memorial is in on the main street of the little town of Woodhall Spa, on the corner of the road which leads to the site of the wartime RAF station which bore the same name. It is a large concrete monument in the shape of a breached dam wall – the water flooding through the centre represented by a slate slab, which is carved with the squadron crest and battle honours.

This is the official memorial to the 53 men from the UK and the Commonwealth who died on the day of the Dams Raid, which took place 74 years ago today. The memorial also lists the 151 other men who served with the squadron and died while on active service later in the war. All are listed in strict alphabetical order: no ranks, just initials, surnames and decorations.

The town is popular with tourists and day trippers so a small stream of people walk up to the memorial every day, many looking for the famous names. But few cannot be moved by the sheer number here – 204 died in a period of under two years. We should not forget, however, that their sacrifice is replicated on the countless other memorials across the world to those who died elsewhere in the Second World War. Together, they are a humbling sight.

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New 617 Squadron memorial at Woodhall Spa

The 617 Squadron Aircrew Association has asked for the following press release to be posted on this blog:

NEW MEMORIAL FOR DAMBUSTERS SQUADRON
In the centre of Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire, wartime home of No. 617 Squadron, Royal Air Force, “The Dambusters”, stands a memorial in the form of a breached dam, commemorating the names of those members of the Squadron who gave their lives during the Second World War
Since the end of that conflict over 30 additional members of the Squadron have died serving their country either with the Squadron or other units.
To commemorate these post-WW II servicemen, the No. 617 Squadron Aircrew Association will erect a second memorial on a site adjacent to their wartime memorial.
The memorial will take the form of a 3 metre high black granite pyramid, its form echoing the wing form of two of the aircraft flown post-war by the Squadron – the Vulcan and Tornado.
A projecting triangular pediment will carry the Squadron badge and the inscription “In Memory of all members of No. 617 Sqn RAF who gave their lives since 1945 in the service of their country.  We will remember them”
The polished side faces of the pyramid will contain inset red glass lightning flashes, the symbol carried today on the Squadron’s Tornado aircraft, and will be inscribed with the Squadron’s post-war Battle Honours of  “Gulf 1991” and  “Iraq 2003”
The Memorial has been created by Sylvia Waugh, a local Lincolnshire designer, winner of a competition organised for final year students by the University of Lincoln and will be constructed by a Lincolnshire-based monumental mason.
Planning permission has been obtained and the No. 617 Squadron Aircrew Association is now launching a public appeal to raise the £25,000 required to bring this project to completion.
Donations may be made to ‘No. 617 Squadron Aircrew Association’ and sent to Group Captain D G Robertson, Chairman, 617 Sqn Aircrew Association,8 Thorold Way, Harmston, Lincoln LN5 9GJ